Henry Pereira Mendes

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Henry Pereira Mendes (1852–1937) was an American rabbi who was born in Birmingham, England and died in New York.

Family history and education[edit]

Mendes was born into an old rabbinic family. His maternal ancestors include Raphael Meldola, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of London, and David Aaron de Sola. His father Abraham Pereira Mendes was Rabbi in Birmingham, England as well as in Jamaica and Newport, Rhode Island. He was educated at Northwick College (rabbinics), at University College (London), and at the New York University, taking the degree of M.D. (1884). The degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (1904).

Early career[edit]

He became minister of the Manchester (England) Sephardic congregation in 1874, and in 1877 was called to the Congregation Shearith Israel of New York.

Shooting[edit]

On March 5, 1892, he was shot in the abdomen at his home by a beggar named Jose Mizrachee.

Organizational activities[edit]

In 1881 he was one of the founders of the New York Board of Ministers, and acted as its secretary from its foundation up to 1901, when he became president. He joined Sabato Morais in helping to establish the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1886, of which he became secretary of the advisory board and professor of history. On the death of Dr. Morais he became acting president of the faculty until the appointment of Solomon Schechter in 1902. In 1884, the centennial of the birth of Sir Moses Montefiore, he moved his congregation to convene the leading Jews of New York to mark the event by some practical work: the outcome was the Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids, established in the same year. He was made vice-president of the Gild for Crippled Children in 1896, and in 1901 established the Jewish branch of that gild. He promoted the formation of the Union of Orthodox Congregations of the United States and Canada (1897) and was subsequently elected its president. Mendes was one of the founders of the Young Women's Hebrew Association of New York (1902). Mendes served as professor of homiletics at Yeshiva Isaac Elchanan from 1917 to 1920.

As Zionist[edit]

In Zionism, Mendes stands specially for its spiritual aspect; he served as vice-president of the American Federation of Zionists and was a member of the Actions Committee of Vienna (1898–99). Mendes was one of the first American Zionists and was asked by Theodore Herzl to spread the Zionist cause in America.

Literary contributions[edit]

In conjunction with his brother Frederick de Sola Mendes, and others, he was one of the founders of "The American Hebrew" (1879), to whose columns, as to those of the general press, he is a frequent contributor. He is the author of "Union Primer and Reading Book" (1882); "Jewish History Ethically Presented" (1895); "Looking Ahead," a plea for justice to the Jew (1900); "The Jewish Religion Ethically Presented" (1904). Among his other writings are: "In Old Egypt," stories about, but not from, the Bible; "Esther"; "Judas Maccabæus"; and many essays in periodical publications.

References[edit]